Sue and Settle: Regulating Behind Closed Doors

Tuesday, February 7, 2017 - 3:30pm

What is Sue and Settle?

"Sue and Settle" refers to when a federal agency agrees to a settlement agreement, in a lawsuit from special interest groups, to create priorities and rules outside of the normal rulemaking process.  The agency intentionally relinquishes statutory discretion by committing to timelines and priorities that often realign agency duties.  These settlement agreements are negotiated behind closed doors with no participation from the public or affected parties.

As an example, between 2009 and 2012, EPA chose not to defend itself in over 60 lawsuits from special interest advocacy groups.  These cases resulted in settlement agreements and EPA publishing more than 100 new regulations - including the recent Clean Power Plan.

Recent Notices of Intent to Sue on EPA's Website

12/22/2016 CAA, Sierra Club and Environmental Integrity Project
Failure to grant or deny a petition to object to a proposed Title V Operating Permit for Wheelabrator Frackville Energy, Inc. power plant in Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania.
12/20/2016 CWA, EPA
Mandatory duty challenge to Region 5 demanding that they act on Ohio's 2016 303(d) list.
12/7/2016 MPRSA, New York Department of State, New York Department of Environmental Conservation
NOI regarding EPA designation of Eastern Long Island Sounds dredged material disposal site. 
11/23/2016 CAA, Environmental Integrity Project, Sierra Club, and Air Alliance Houston
For Failure to Timely Grant or Deny a Petition to Object to Part 70 Operating Permit No. 01553 Issued to the ExxonMobil Corporation for the Baytown Olefins Plant in Harris County, Texas.
For a full list of EPA's Notices of Intent to Sue, visit

What is New in Sue and Settle?

    January 2017

    See all -- Sue and Settle News Archive

    What are the Economic Implications of our Findings?

    Interactive List of All Sue & Settle Cases

    Also see this alternate table, which lists court cases resolved by agency action in response to legal challenges.

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